August 25

Tsavo National Park East and West Explained

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August 25, 2023

Famed for its sheer size, diverse landscapes, and incredible wildlife encounters, Tsavo National Park is divided into two distinct sections – Tsavo East and Tsavo West. These two siblings may share a name, but they each have unique personalities and stories. Join us as we share the captivating differences between the two.

Elephants sighted on safari game drive

Both "mini national parks" offer abundant opportunities and different vantage points, Image Credit: Finch Hattons

How Do You Get to Tsavo National Park?

Getting to Tsavo National Park is part of the adventure! Depending on where you start your journey, you can either fly into Nairobi or Mombasa. From there, a thrilling road trip'll take you through quaint villages and stunning landscapes. There are also several private airstrips which you can use to fly to the national park.

Elephants splashing and quenching their thirst 

What is Tsavo National Park Known For?

Tsavo National Park presents a plethora of surprises! But first, prepare to be whisked away into a world of adventure where reality and the silver screen collide!

1. The Fearsome Lions of Kenya's Past

Remember the thrilling movie "The Ghost and the Darkness," starring Val Kilmer? Well, Tsavo National Park is the actual stage where this riveting story unfolded. Yes, you read that right – the Tsavo Man-Eaters, a pair of fearsome male lions in Kenya's Tsavo region, brought intrigue and terror as they were responsible for many construction workers' demise on the Kenya-Uganda Railway in the late 1800s.

And get this – the very railway that once saw this gripping saga is what now divides Tsavo National Park into its east and west counterparts. Talk about a jaw-dropping twist! But, we must note that many lions still call Tsavo home, all of which enjoy a healthy diet of plains game only! No man-eating lions here, folks!

Duas leoas na Reserva Privativa do Sabi Sand

Seeing lions in the wild will always be a highlight on safari, Image Credit: Silvan Safari

2. Incredibly Vast Terrain and Varied Wildlife

Tsavo National Park is a treasure trove of wonders that go beyond its compelling history. Picture an expansive paradise covering a staggering 4% of Kenya's topography, making it a true titan among the world's national parks.

Venture to the glistening Mzima Springs, a haven where hippos, crocodiles, and cheeky vervet monkeys come out to play. Additionally, as you journey through the Tsavo, a symphony of wildlife greets you, starring the legendary Big 5. Majestic lions rule the realm with regal flair, while a parade of elephants adds grandeur and grace to the scene.

Image Credit: Finch Hattons

Giraffes always look so curious, Image Credit: Finch Hattons

3. From Plains to Peaks

But wait, there's more! Tsavo National Park isn't just a sanctuary for the wild – it's an adrenaline-pumping playground for rock-climbing aficionados! Mudanda Rock in the east and the rocky cliffs of Kichwa Tembo in the west beckon you to conquer their heights. Imagine locking eyes with soaring birds of prey as you ascend. And, on clear sunny days, treat yourself to the awe-inspiring sight of snow-capped Kilimanjaro on the horizon.

Die malerische Savanne in Kenia mit Bäumen und dem Kilimanjaro im Hintergrund

Majestic Mount Kilimanjaro as seen from the savannah, Image Credit: Sergey Pesterev

Differences Between Tsavo East and Tsavo West

When experiencing the unparalleled curiosities of Kenya's wilderness, Tsavo West National Park and Tsavo East National Park stand out as two distinct gems. Each with its own charms, these two wildlife havens showcase the rich natural beauty of Kenya in different ways.

Image Credit: Finch Hattons

Zebras playing in the dust, Image Credit: Finch Hattons

1. Landscape and Geography

Tsavo East National Park enjoys a classic African savannah landscape. Its open plains stretch as far as the eye can see, and the Galana River winds its way through the landscape, creating picturesque scenes of wildlife congregating along its banks.

On the other hand, Tsavo West National Park presents an alluring blend of rugged terrain, volcanic cones, and unexpected oases. Its defining feature, the pristine Mzima Springs, welcomes you with crystal-clear pools fed by underground streams. This contrast between arid landscapes and water adds an enchanting layer to the national park's character.

Red ground road and bush with savanna panorama landscape in Africa. Tsavo West, Kenya.

Both national parks cover an impressive 4% of Kenya, making it one of the world’s largest

2. Wildlife and Biodiversity

Tsavo East, renowned for its herds of elephants, is home to a vibrant ecosystem that includes lions, giraffes, zebras, and an abundance of bird species. Its expansive plains provide ample grazing opportunities, making it a sensational sight to witness wildlife thriving in their natural habitats.

Then there's Tsavo West, boasting diverse wildlife, including elephants, leopards, and rhinos. The national park's unusual soil colour has given rise to the famous "red" elephants that frequently roam its grounds. This diversity ensures that every safari drive gives you sightings of some of Africa's most iconic creatures.

Elephant dusted in red soil in Tsavo National Park

Elephant covered in red dust in Tsavo National Park

3. Other Scenic Marvels

In Tsavo East National Park, the Yatta Plateau, one of the world's longest lava flows, stretches majestically across the landscape. The stunning Lugard Falls, where the Galana River surges through rocky rapids, paint a picture of the river's unyielding power.

Tsavo West National Park boasts several remarkable landmarks that showcase its geological oddities. The mesmerising Mzima Springs, the enigmatic Shetani Lava Flow, and the dramatic Chaimu Crater all contribute to its allure, providing visitors with glimpses of the Earth's geological history.

Leopard maneuvering around the Shetani Lava Flow formations

Leopard manoeuvring around the Shetani Lava Flow formations, Image Credit: Finch Hattons

Start Planning Your Tsavo Safari Experience

Discover Tsavo National Park with the guidance of our Travel Experts. Tsavo West and Tsavo East National Parks, while united by their name, each offer an entirely distinct safari experience. From the lush oases of Tsavo West to the sweeping plains of Tsavo East, these national parks showcase the kaleidoscope of Kenya's natural beauty and wildlife. 

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Tsavo East, Tsavo National Park, Tsavo West


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About the author 

Michelle Welvering

Growing up, Michelle always wanted to become a world-renowned artist, a kickboxing-champion and an eccentric explorer – aka a Kickboxing Exploring Artist! After pursuing an education in Fine Arts and opening her own Kickboxing gym in Pretoria, an unexpected twist led her to a six-year stint as a travel consultant in South African tourism. She believes that all things happen for a reason and, driven by adventure, she was eager to find a more “wild” and cultural space to call home. This led her to wander the Western Cape coastline, fall in love with the city of Cape Town and, of course, her workplace, Rhino Africa.

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